If you’re working for an established company or corporation, it’s very likely that you spend the majority of the week at an office. In the process of sending emails, attending weekly meetings, and racing to meet deadlines- have you ever stopped to think about how your environment is influencing your work and productivity?
In a well designed space, we don’t really notice the subtle details that make us feel good. We just know that the environment makes us feel happy, and that we are motivated to do our work. A workplace that is not well designed, might elicit the opposite feeling. At KLEIN, we have learned to pay extra attention to how our products influence and function in the workplace, because we know how interior design affects our workplace interactions. This encompasses everything from our desks and workstations, to layout and circulation, as well as amenities and spaces to gather.
To create better, more comfortable, and more productive workplaces, business owners, architects, designers, and contractors need to acknowledge their role as key decision makers.
With great power comes great responsibility- and to make the most of it, we want to talk about 8 design choices you can make to influence workplace interactions in a more positive direction.
With more companies adapting fluid work from home policies, we see an inevitable change in the way we interact with and utilize our workspaces. With not all workers being in the office all the time, shared workspaces and hotdesking models are changing the definition of “ownership” of a work area in a bid to increase utility. This change has also led to an increasing need of hybrid telecommuting meeting spaces- essentially, spaces that allow for a gathering of physically present employees along with screens for remote employees to call in. Prior to the pandemic, most companies already had a dedicated conference room- but it was typically reserved for important meetings, and not the workplace norm. Now- rather than a single, centralized conference room, we are seeing a need for more micro-conference rooms that can accommodate ongoing work collaborations throughout the workday.
Let there be Light
There are many reasons the consideration of light in workplace design has become more and more important. For one, workplace designs that incorporate bright natural light reduce the need for artificial light, which is an important aspect of sustainable design. Secondly, natural light and small slivers of sunlight promote a feeling of well being- by providing us with Vitamin D and helping us regulate our circadian rhythms.
The effects of the benefits of lighting on our mental and physical well being have been well studied. For countries in northern hemispheres that don’t receive a lot of sunlight, red lights can be found everywhere in spas, gyms, and centers of well being, to help simulate the feeling of sunshine. Another study shows that replacing standard fluorescent lamps with Full spectrum Fluorescent lighting can help combat seasonal affective disorder. So if you want to improve the wellbeing of your employees in your workplace, lighting should be one of the first areas you look to make changes in.
Although many people love working from home, after almost 2 years of on and off lockdowns and thousands of zoom calls, many workers find some relief in the prospect of getting to work again with their coworkers, in person. This has really led to increasing value being placed on the need for gathering areas in the office. These are not just areas for people to work, but also people to socialize together. Designing areas that allow people to come together for work and social activities helps teams bond and feel more unified.
Companies that are wondering how they can draw workers back into the office need to consider designing more comfortable areas for employees to work, eat, and take breaks. If the alternative to the office is your comfortable couch at home, why would you go in, unless you’re forced? By acknowledging that work isn’t only about work, but about our interactions and collaborations with people, we can create better incentives for people to want to come in, by designing comfortable and ample gathering spaces.
When it comes to designing optimized workplaces, we know that any two employees may perform best in vastly different environments. Some may prefer calm, quiet spaces, while others may feel energized in colorful spaces with music openly playing in the background. This is why our workplace designs need to make room to accommodate heads-down, focused work areas that allow employees to focus on a specific task. A great way to create a multi-functional space is to incorporate movable walls, like one’s built with KLEIN’s rollmatic system, to allow employees to adjust a space for more privacy or open-ness as needed.
Depending on the type of work, darkness can sometimes be used as an advantage to create these sorts of environments. By removing extraneous distractions and stimuli, we are able to hone in even more on our tasks. Consider the effect sensory deprivation tanks have on our minds. By removing extra noise and stimuli we are able to get into a deeply focused state. This focused state helps us achieve flow, which is crucial for creativity and productivity.
Audio and Noise
Have you ever been unable to focus on a task because of an ongoing conversation, audiobook, or lecture playing in the background? One of the downsides of open floor office concepts is the risk of noisy distractions. If you’re a programmer trying to focus on writing code, it can be difficult to focus over the constant calls the sales reps across the floor have to engage in.
This is why we need to consider the auditory effect our workplace designs have on employees, and create quiet areas that emulate the serene environment found in a library study room.
One way to achieve this is by creating glass or wooden partitions between work areas that can be closed in case of an incoming call or ongoing meetings. Installing noise absorbing panels is another way to absorb noise between sections.
Materials & Plants
The materials we are surrounded by play a surprisingly influence on our well being at work. When we are surrounded by natural elements, or things that we associate with natural elements, we feel at home. We are programmed to like glass and shiny surfaces because they remind us of water. Wood characteristics, like those found in KLEIN’s NATURE line, add warmth and character to a space and make us feel connected with nature, as does the addition of plants. Certain types of synthetic materials, like synthetic fiber carpet, are not as great. Alongside shedding particulates and microplastics, carpets trap dust and can activate allergies in sensitive people.
The right color and material of a desk is also very important depending on the type of work being performed. Designers and artists need white surfaces in order to aid with layering and tracing processes. And with the enhanced pandemic hygiene protocols, special consideration needs to be given to the cleanability of surfaces and materials.
Privacy & Open Floor Plans
We already touched on some of the disadvantages of open floor plans in offices, and the need to accommodate a range of personalities and workstyles in the design of an office. But one thing we haven’t touched on is the need for privacy in workspaces.
Navigating the balance between privacy and shared workspaces can be tricky. On one hand, not all workplaces have the space to give private offices to all employees- and private offices end up becoming a luxury reserved for senior positions. On the other hand, workplaces that fail to provide at least some privacy to employees can use this as a way to micromanage their workforce. This can lead to an oppressive and extremely counter productive atmosphere in a workplace. We think the best solution to this dilemma, especially in shared workspaces, is to design modular spaces that can easily be converted from one state to another with sliding door systems and partitions. These systems can smoothly and effortlessly erect barriers to create privacy or open spaces, depending on need.
Movement and access to a space is defined by doors. Take special consideration to design your entryways in a way that won’t impede the flow of traffic, and that makes moving between spaces easy. A heavy glass swinging door might not be the best solution for an area that gets a lot of foot traffic. The right door selection also changes the characteristic of a space depending on whether it’s transparent, solid, or frosted. Moveable walls, like KLEIN’s Extendo line, also make a great alternative door system for when you need the utility of both opening and closing the space.
If you’re unsure of what door system might work best in your interior design, feel free to consult with one of our product experts to get a better idea of the full range of KLEIN products that would best suit your needs.
As you can see, there are many ways to influence positive workplace design, and combining these approaches will shape the way an office operates into the future. To create cohesive environments that promote the wellbeing of employees and create a collaborative environment, make sure your designs address a range of employee work styles and needs.